Posted by asm826 on Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Tom shouldered the door open and walked into the Cubi Point terminal with his seabag slung up on his shoulder. Outside the main windows, a C-130 sat with one engine turning. A quick survey of the Marines gathered told Tom a lot about how the last night had gone for most of them.
Bill looked up from the floor where he sat leaned against the wall, “So, how was your last night?”
“Good, sad, I don’t know. It’s over now, anyway. Bye-bye you and away we go.”
Bill belched, then yawned, “Yup, it’s over. I think I’m relieved, I couldn’t take too much more of this. I’d have to slow down.”
Tom laughed and dropped his seabag. He sat down on it and looked out at the flightline. They weren’t scheduled to take off for an hour. He pushed the seabag into the wall and leaned back. He was asleep in minutes.
When he awoke, the rest of the rear party was there. All present and accounted for, Tom thought, that’s almost surprising.
Gunny came in from the bird and got the attention of the group, “Alright, listen up. The bird’s got electrical problems. The generator on the inboard engine on the starboard side keeps dropping out. They think they can fix it, but we are going to be here a while. Nobody leaves without checking with me. If you want to go to chow, you got time, just let me know.”
The next time Tom awoke, Bill was kicking his boots, “C’mon sleepyhead, they think it’s up. We’re boarding.”
Tom blinked and looked around. The sound of the rain hitting the building made him glance outside. It was pouring. The morning monsoon had arrived. They gathered at the door with their seabags, then dashed out one by one to the ramp of the aircraft. Water stood half a foot deep on the flightline. Big drops of cold rain soaked them instantly.
Looking out the ramp, the visibility was only a few yards. The closest hanger was an indistinct blur. The loadmaster closed the ramp, then moved down the row checking seat belts. The red webbing of the jump seats and the immediate discomfort of the aluminum rails felt like an old friend. Being cold and wet was just an added bonus.
The engines started one by one, and after a few minutes, they taxied out. The plane moved and bounced, but without windows to reference their location, it was impossible to determine anything. The sound of the engines and propellers going to full power for takeoff was followed by lurch of the brakes releasing.
Leaning into the acceleration, they were all thrown off balance when the takeoff aborted. The engines spooled down, and they obviously taxiing again. When the ramp came down, the same view of the rain and flightline reappeared. Bill leaned in and yelled, “That’s different, I’ve never had an aborted takeoff.” Tom shook his head, “Me, either. Bet it’s still that generator.”
The engines shut down and they went back into the terminal, getting soaked again.
With orders to wait around, they gathered at the windows, more interested now in the maintenance effort going on outside. A rolling ladder had been pushed up to the inboard engine and the cowling had been removed. Two people in flight suits stood on the platform, one working, and one holding an umbrella. The peanut gallery was enjoying the show. “Oh, good, they’ve got Mary Poppins on the job.” “Get a bigger hammer and whack it again.” “Hey, three of four, whadda you want?”
Tom turned to Gunny Ceisak, “You can see the report now, the pilot launched in deteriorating conditions, in a marginal aircraft, late in the day, for a flight over water that would extend past dusk, once airborne and past the point of no return, the last link in the accident chain was forged….”
Gunny smiled, “Don’t start, Harrelson. I was thinking the same thing. I don’t want to fly on that bird, not today, not in this weather.”